Fort Lauderdale

October 2, 2010

Dinner at the Ritz, in the Wine Vault

Two weeks ago I posted information about the Wine Vault at the Ritz Carlton Fort Lauderdale. This wine vault is part of the wine room that houses the resort’s 5,000 bottle wine collection. The room is designed as such that you can actually have dinner and experience all that the wine vault has to offer; last night I had my experience. Dinner in the Wine Vault was and is everything you imagine it to be. It was exotic, exciting, and very romantic as only dreamy wines perfectly paired with exquisite food can be. I have put the photos taken at dinner in a slideshow on Flickr. This post doubles as my regular Saturday Food Porn leads to Foodgasms post.

We started our evening with wine and cheese on the Ritz Carlton’s oceanfront terrace, a perfect ending to a long work week and a delicious start to what was about to be an adventurous evening of food and wine; a gastronomic and oenophile dream come true.

The wine vault dining experience is a five-course wine dinner that is customized specifically to your tastes. Once your dinner reservations are made Don Derocher the Ritz Carlton’s Sommelier contacts you to discuss your food and wine affinities and aversions; once armed with this personalized information Mr. Derocher works with the hotel’s restaurant Via Luna’s chef to create a one of kind individual menu. This menu is presented to you at the dinner table so you are able to follow along and navigate your senses through the sea of flavors.

The Wine Vault is kept at 55-degrees to maintain the wine collection. This temperature at first blush may sound chillingly uncomfortable for some of the ladies so to further the experience in a way that only a Ritz Carlton can, the ladies are presented with a faux fur stole to keep them warm for the evening while dining in the Wine Vault. Of course I was “Puttin’ on the Ritz” but the rise in body heat I generated from the multiple glasses of wine I had at the start of this dinner I opted to go faux fur free after my second glass of wine.

Don Derocher is with you through each course presenting, detailing and explaining. The purpose is so you fully understand and appreciate the experience of this food and wine pairing. Don is a natural educator who is genuinely enthusiastic about his professional calling as a wine expert.

The first course served was Ahi Tuna Crudo with a roast garlic vinaigrette house tapenade served with NV Nino Franco Prosecco di Valdobbiadene “Rustico,” DOCG Italy. With each bite and each sip of the wine this pairing made it seem as if each taste was your first. This was the exact reaction Don was hoping for with this pairing and by the taste of it we were off to quite a delicious start.

The second course Mr. Derocher orchestrated was Buffalo Mozzarella with vine ripe tomatoes and a garlic crostini paired with a 2008 Feundi di San Gregorio, Fiano di Avellino, DOCG Italy. The creamy mozzarella took center stage as it worked the tastes of the supporting flavors of the tomatoes and the crostini while the wine brought the entire dish to its crescendo.

OK for this next course, we were chomping at the bit. As far as we were concerned Mr. Derocher could not get it to the table fast enough. This course was the highly anticipated Risotto di Mare. This indulgent, creamy rice was complimented with clams, mussels, shrimp and asparagus perfectly prepared with fresh herbs and was paired with the 2004 Travaglini, Gattinara DOCG Italy. Each taste of the risotto brought a whole new context to each sip of wine. It was during this course you could have heard a pin drop. Not one word was spoken until the last grain of Arborio rice was consumed.

This party isn’t over yet, we’ve got two more courses to go and this next one is a tender, flavorful Grilled Rib Veal Chop served atop of a rich soft polenta and broccolini only to be underscored with a rosemary garlic wine sauce. This dish was paired with the 2009 Achaval Ferrer Malbec, Argentina. As there was an indulgent sexy silence during the Risotto di Mare course all you heard was laughter with each bite of this course. I think at this point we started to become giddy with the sheer exhilaration of this entire experience. We would take a bite of food, a sip of wine and look around at the jaw dropping wines in this room, you couldn’t help be affected by this entire experience.

And all good things must come to an end. When Don poured the 2000 Felsina Berardenga “Vin Santo” Chianti Classico DOC Italy we simply let it be. No swirling, no sniffing we just let the wine “be” in the glass. “Vin Santo” means holy wine in Italian. Vin Santo is an Italian dessert wine that is traditional in Tuscany.

The conversation at this point was about the dessert, a Ricotta Cheesecake. We all agreed the pending wine that was still just “being” in the glass, was a perfect choice for a ricotta cheesecake. (Ricotta Cheesecake not being as sweet as its New York Style cousin.) There has not been one thing ordinary about this wine dinner; first of all we’re sitting in a wine vault with thousands of expertly chosen boutique wines, some of us were still wearing our Marilyn Monroe-esque faux fur stoles, at this point we had just enjoyed a four course meal designed just for us. This is not ordinary, but rather extraordinary. So what about dessert? Keeping in line with the rest of the evening the Ricotta Cheesecake was NOT your Italian Grandmother’s Cheesecake I’ll tell you. This cheesecake was enveloped in a crisp phyllo-dough wrapping topped with an olive oil gelato and garnished with chocolate raspberry drizzle. The pairing went like this, a bite of the cheesecake, a sip of Vin Santo, mouth full, barely swallowed and something to the effect of “holy wine” was repeated until there was nothing left on anyone’s plate. There is no doubt this was the perfect ending to a perfect evening. You could almost say we had quite a religious experience, reveling in the exquisite nectar of the gods and to that end I say Amen to the holy wine! Click here to view photos of the dinner.

This wine dinner experience is $125 per person not including tax and gratuity. Reservations are required. Mr. Derocher hosts wine dinners in the wine vault for 2 to 8 people. If you don’t want to spend the time involved it takes to go through a wine dinner you can enjoy a wine tasting in the wine vault of six cuvees from around the globe also presented by Don Derocher. This wine tasting is offered Wednesday through Sunday evenings. Reservations are required and the cost is $50/person.

Ritz Carlton Fort Lauderdale 1 North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33304 (954) 465-2300
Via Luna (Ritz Carlton Resort) on Urbanspoon


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